Jacob Nie

Subalpine and Alpine Meadows

I am so sorry that I do not have any sources for this - I totally should. I just read about it somewhere and decided to write it up, but I've totally forgotten where I read it!

Meadow formation steps

  1. A lake is formed by glacier activity. (Glaciers can carve depressions into the bedrock that fill up with water when the ice leaves.)
  2. The lake begins to fill up with fine-grained sediment carried from the streams feeding the lake.
  3. Eventually, the lake is filled with sediment. The sediment is saturated with water, since the sediment remains beneath the water table. Now it is a wetland meadow, where trees can't grow because there is too much water.
  4. (Later, this meadow could also become forested as a result of tree encroachment.)
A schematic:

An example

This is Lake ~9625, the lowest of the Sphinx Lakes in the Kings Canyon National Park. It's a lake that's slowly becoming a meadow:

USGS image (water flow is from bottom to top)

Satellite image (Bing Maps)

As you can tell from the maps, this is approximately stage 4 in the schematic. Soon there will be no more lake left!